It is that time of year when I start thinking about getting back to camp in Maine. The landlocked salmon season opens in May and I want to be there when the ice melts. I have written extensively about my experiences at camp in my column here but thought I would share a few more details about myself and about Danforth. My camp is about 80 miles north of Bangor, on the northeast coast of Maine along the border with New Brunswick, Canada. My cabin sits on the shore of East Grand Lake, a majestic body of water formed many years ago by a series of dams, as a route for the logging industry. Small-mouthed bass, land-locked salmon, and lake trout are common and draw fishermen from far and wide- mainly from Boston and from throughout Maine. Sharing a boundary with Canada is beneficial since the Canadian side is all wilderness preserve. Most of the time I fish in Canadian waters. There is a heavy presence of Homeland Security here since there are several border crossings up and down the coast. The lake is closed in the evenings to boat traffic and drug running has all but ceased since the drones started flying. My camp road is at the terminus of US Route 1 which runs from Maine to Key West, Florida. Every time I drive south onto Route 1 I feel I am back on the road to civilization so to speak. Danforth is downsized from what it was when the logging industry was dominant. The center of town is comprised of little more than a gas station, a general store and a coffee shop, all of which exist in one non-descript building. The clientele is mostly truck drivers hauling wood, who have stopped on the way to the few remaining plants that process pulp for transport to China. The houses that remain standing in Danforth are grand old mansions of another era when logging was king. Most are diminished by years of neglect and the long, hard Maine winters. The local school has only a few children. There is plenty of history here but few to share it. The economy is pretty much supported by the remaining paper industry and tourists like me. My main attraction in town in Dave’s Hardware. Dave has everything from antiques to screen doors. But Dave, like everyone else in Danforth, is ready to leave. The sign in his front window says, “For Sale- Hardware Business Including Inventory – Make Offer.” There is no police presence and the EMT is voluntary as is the Fire Department. The retail has been devastated. First, by the decline of logging, secondly by the arrival of a Walmart 45 minutes to the south in Lincoln and another one 45 minutes to the north in Houlton—Danforth is caught in the middle like a kid being taunted by two bullies– and the final blow was of course the Covid scourge. Unless you arrive on the lake by seaplane and a few people do, the highway goes through Lincoln, home to a mall with a McDonalds, a Hortons, and the Walmart. I drive the 45 minutes to Lincoln every Sunday for the New York Times. Recently I was offered internet service at my camp. This was a major advance, especially for me. I still practice law and the internet has enabled me to work remotely from camp when I wish. I will not connect to a TV. I am holding out. I have a wonderful library of my outdoor books as well as an accumulation of my fishing stories from all over the world, documented in photo books.
I found Danforth by accident. Several years ago, I was fishing in Canada for salmon and took a sea plane rather than drive. We landed on East Grand Lake to pick up some friends with a cabin there, and I saw a For Sale sign. When I could not connect to cell service, I knew this was the area I wanted as my wilderness escape, finally. I have been fortunate to take fishing trips to Patagonia, Wales, Labrador, Chile, Slovenia, and out west to California. I will always cherish those trips, especially the one to the Sierras, which brought me to Downieville. But Danforth, imperfect though it may be, is my getaway. I cannot wait to trade the Florida sunshine for the cool, brisk Maine spring.